UK Hip Hop: Artists & Discographies
Freestyle of the Arsonists

For all that don't know please introduce yourself and let the readers know a bit about you...

Wdup! My name is Freestyle. Some might know me from the crew The Arsonists. Others might know me as Shabazz The Disciple's sidekick and cousin. Those that don't know me take a moment out to get to know me and my music, and I assure you won't be disappointed. Here's a little timeline:

1 - Been rappin' since 1985, first time in the studio was 1987
2 - First time performin' live (rhymin') was in 1988
3 - Got with Arsonists in 93
4 - First tour was with The GZA and Wu-Tang Clan w/ Shabazz
5 - First time my voice was on wax was in 1995
6 - First Arsonists record came out in 96
7 - First album came out in 99
8 - Arsonists split up in 2000
9 - First solo album came out in 2004

First off, where did the name come from? Is it as simple as being down to your freestyling abilities?

Nah. It's part of that, but not all of it. I came up with Freestyle and Versatile, and felt Versatile was too complex at that time (1987). So I went with Freestyle 'cause of that and the fact that I started off rhymin' like that, freestylin'. 

How did you get in to Hip Hop?

I'd say Hip Hop got into me. When you live in Brooklyn, it's hard to avoid Hip Hop when you're on the streets since it's your every day life. Being that it was an every day, living life thing, it was never about getting into Hip Hop really. It was just somethin' that just happened 'cause of your surroundings.

Can you tell us a bit about where you are from? 

Born in Brooklyn, NY! My background is Panamanian and I was raised in Panama from 2 to 5. Then my mom brought us back to BK where we basically grew up. Bushwick is where we moved to, one of the roughest parts of Brooklyn. They used to call it cop-killa land, so go figure... Drug infested, murders, etc... It wasn't cool to most, but I loved it and wouldn't have given it up for anything. There were loads of crews around, be it breakin' or graffiti. So the competition level was real out there. Everybody wanted to be tops. Especially the graffiti crews. They basically ran shit if you ask me! 

Who's your crew are and who they are associated with? How did you get together?

My ex group is The Arsonists. We were associated with other groups that were comin' up just like us... Non Phixion, Company Flow, Juggaknots, Natural Elements, Natural Resource, Da Bush Babees, Wu-Tang, and Rocksteady Crew (through Q-Unique), etc... etc... As for whom I'm affiliated with now... Shabazz The Disciple, Block Exchange, Looptroop, Eternia, Q-Unique, Non Phixion, etc... etc... I got with Arsonist through meeting D-stroy at a local talent show / battle. We all basically met through the hood. D-stroy and Kinetic NRG always envisioned havin' a crew of heads that had real Hip Hop in common. So they began to recruit people in da hood and that's how we came together. Some of the members, such as Q and Jise, weren't living in Bushwick with us so they came through meeting them other ways. Met Eternia at the Rocksteady Anniversary and been friends ever since. She's probably one of the dopest female mcs out there! She has an album comin' real soon as well. Met Looptroop at a show we did with them in Denmark. They were comin' up at the time as well and I really felt their music and their vibe. So I approached them to do some music and we've been fam ever since. Met RZA through a manager I had at the time. He was supposed to be giving me beats to come up with an album, and instead I introduced him to Shabazz and that's what gave birth to Baz being on the Gravediggaz projects. The list goes on...

Are there any other producers or MCs in your crew to look out for?

Eternia, Shabazz, Looptroop, Non Phixion, Q-Unique, etc... They all have new albums either out or comin' out soon!

When would it have been that you first stepped up and started participating in Hip Hop, rather than just listening or spectating?

I'd say 1985 was it. That's when I started freestylin'.

What do you tend to write about and what inspires you?

Most of my stuff is either positive, emotional, or both. Sometimes I try to get creative with it, but it's mostly done via inspiration. My family inspires me, my friends, movies, music, things I learn, etc... Everything inspires me. Can't really put a finger on it...

Can you explain your style to us? 

My style is a positive, soulful, energetic vibe thing. I work with flows and rhyme schemes a lot. If it isn't one of the above, you probably won't find it in my music.

OK, what is it that is different or unique about you?

To me, nothing! Every thing has been done one way or another and I basically learned it from others. It's hard to say you're different or unique. A lot of people claim they're unique, when in fact they're not. I'm not afraid to admit it! I got Hip Hop from others and I was inspired. I didn't create anything new. Wish I did though.

Who or what are your main influences? Some of your Arsonists stuff is classic and you must have looked up to some of the main names in Hip Hop?

Rakim, Public Enemy, Kool G Rap, KRS One, Grandmaster Caz, Kool Moe Dee, Rocksteady Crew, The Arsonists, Shabazz, reggae music, movies, etc... These all did it and still do it for me!

Who was it you hooked up with label or finance wise that helped you take the step to getting your material out? How does this relationship work?

First person that I consider that gave me my first real chance is Bobbito Garcia. I don't think he knows it, but he played some of my demos before I was with Arsonists! Then he played 'The Session', which is what got us our first break. It got a great response and he offered to press it up on vinyl. From there it was history. In this case there wasn't a relationship between he and I. Q knew him and got the song to him. So I owe The Arsonists break to Bob and Q. Big up!

Can you talk us through your back catalogue? What records have you released or been involved with, and how do you feel about them now?

Awwww man this is too much to list. Well, to begin with, I've only done 2 albums: As The World Burns & Etched In Stone. Everything else I've done were features, and there's about 40 of 'em out there. If you really wanna know, hit my website! I got a full discography on there... *phew* Just got out of that one... haha!

Now you have a new LP that just came out. Was there a concept behind your album? Can you tell us a bit about each/some of the tracks on your LP, what they are about, what effects, moods or messages you were trying to create/pass on? 

No one concept behind the album. I just did what I felt and put it all together. On a whole, the album is nothing but energy, emotion, soul, positivity, and Hip Hop. I tried to give what not too many mcs are doin' anymore. Only a select few are focusin' on being positive.

Have you been gigging to promote your stuff? What's the reaction like when you are live and what do you feel when doing live shows?

Of course! I haven't stopped giggin' yet. I don't get to go everywhere, but I definitely gig all the time. The reaction to me live? I'm thankful to say that people always show A LOT of love when I rock. It gives me that extra nudge and fuel to keep doin' this Hip Hop shit for real. I don't make much at all, so sometimes it almost deters me from it, but those shows, the fans, and the heads keep me in it wit' da love they show. I'm grateful.

What else do you do promotion wise, how do you get your name out there?

Internet is what I do besides performing and featuring. Magazine and website interviews as well!

Who is taking care of the production side of things?

On my album you have Meisterbeatz (Switzerland), Stieber Twins (Germany), DJ Friction (Germany), Context (Denmark), Collizhun (Canada), MGI (Finland), and I. I work with other producers as well. You'll hear them on future projects.

Can you let off some of your production techniques? What sort of equipment are you using both to make beats and to record?

I haven't made beats in YEARS. I slowed down on production since I didn't have my own space for a while. I use the ASR-10 sampling keyboard and the MPC (still amateur at that). I think I'm gonna convert to makin' beats on computers at some point.

Have you in general been close friends with the people you work with music wise or have you turned up to a studio with a bunch of strangers? How do you approach each of these scenarios?

I hardly ever have done music with complete strangers. I've always met the person at least once or more. So it's never a stranger situation. We always tend to somehow chat or chill before we work together. How do I approach 'em? By being myself! Get together and make good music happen.

In your career so far what has caused you the most conflicts either personally or from a business perspective? 

Me handling all my business on my own has been a PAIN IN THE ASS. I wish I could afford a manager... It's too much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

How do you feel you are positioned within the marketplace and is that through your wishes or with different circumstances, would you do it differently?

Not sure what you mean by this... My music is always immediately labelled 'underground'. The 'underground' position in the marketplace is a non-commercial one, which means lesser sales but in most cases more genuine respect. I'd do it differently if I could. I wish there weren't any terms such as 'underground' and 'commercial. We didn't have all that back in the days. We we're doin' fine without it. I think it limits artists.

Where can people pick up your stuff?

Either at your local record shop or the internet. It's on sale all over the net and people have been telling me they've seen it in stores.

How do you view the Internet? Do you think it is a useful promotional tool and a good way of getting out there and breaking the strangle hold the major labels have on the marketplace, or are there too many idiots too willing to spout a load of rubbish with no control over them?

Definitely a useful tool as well as a destructive menace. It's great for promotion, but it's bad for record sales. The net is not a way to break the strangle hold the majors have on the marketplace. I wish it was!!! Too many idiots isn't the word... 

Do you have any plans to get your own online presence?

I believe my online presence is there. Look me up on Google or Yahoo Search! Still tryin' my best to get as many website features and magazines done.

How do you feel, as artists, about distribution systems like e-Mule, Soulseek (SLSK) or other P2P software that is out of your control and for which you don't get any money? Do you think that seeing as the free music genie is out of the bag it could create problems in the future for you as artists to get paid for your work?

Like I said before, it's good and bad. It's good 'cause it gets our names out there, but it's bad 'cause it leads to less record sales. A lot of people who used to buy records have discovered this and stopped. That's why the music industry is hurting all over the world at the moment. What's good about p2p programs is it gets my music to people that it's not available to or can't find it. I don't get angry with these people at all. I just hope they take it upon themselves to SPREAD THE WORD and get at least one person to buy the CD or wax!

How do you find the scene where you are based compared to where you originally came from the Brooklyn and latterly the Eastside in general? Where do you feel your allegiances lie?

I don't know much about the Bronx but I know Hip Hop in NY on a whole was similar. We may have spoken a little different and walked a little different, but it was all the same shit really. My allegiances lie in NY!

Hip Hop is massive, how do you see Hip Hop at present and the direction you see it going in?

Hip Hop at the moment is multifaceted. I wish positive shit was being pushed as much as the negative stuff. There are so many different sounds and styles now it's crazy. One thing we could get rid of is the CRAP... I'm sure you all agree, right? We can ALL name at least one SHIT group or MC. Hip Hop will continue to grow and spread its wings. I don't know if it's gonna get better though... That's a tough one to call.

Are you aware of any UK Hip Hop artists or records?

Yeah I know some, but not much... Diversion Tactics, SkinnyMan, Rodney P, Blade, Mr. Scaramanga, Craig David, Joss Stone, etc... 

What are your thoughts about the state of UK Hip Hop? Do you know why it is very hard for UK artists to get any exposure in the US?

I like some UK Hip Hop. Same goes for US Hip Hop. I'm hard to please... It's hard for UK artists to get exposure in the states 'cause of the accent and the states is CLOSED-MINDED when it comes to shit like that. I have people askin' me 'Why are you listening to that? Do you even know what they're saying???'. And I'm like, 'This shit is HOT! Fuck off...'

Do you have any advice for struggling artists in the UK?

Just keep strivin' and work on buildin' Hip Hop in the UK. I always say SUPPORT YOUR OWN, that way you can have somethin' to thrive within without worrying about elsewhere.

What is going to be keeping you busy over the next few months?

The holidays then touring hopefully!

What are your longer-term plans and objectives for you both as an artist and as a record label?

I'm hoping I can move to the next level with my music, sell a little more records so I can live comfortably, and maybe start a label or somethin'. This all takes time and work, which I have a lot of...

What artists do you like and would most like to work with, not necessarily Hip Hop artists?

2 words... Alicia... Keys... I'm a FAN. There are others I'd love to work with, but she's number 1 for me right now... Jill Scott, The Roots, Lauryn Hill, Gangstarr, Big Daddy Kane, A Tribe Called Quest, Elephant Man, Michael Jackson, etc...

Would you like to, or do you have any plans to try and get out to the UK to do a few shows?

I'd LOVE to. Don't have enough connections out there to make this happen though. Know of anyone that can help??? PLEASE LET ME KNOW! Hit me at [email protected] on email or my website

What are the things that you like to do when you aren't living Hip Hop? Do you like sports or the Cinema?

Sports, fantasy sports, movies, computers, the internet, and the great outdoors. MY PASSIONS...

I ask everyone about politics, because I think it is important that we have knowledge of what is going on, but most current Hip Hop heads decline to answer. I guess they don't want to upset anyone. Do you have anything to say on that? Any issues you think people need to open their eyes too?

They don't wanna upset anyone? I think they don't get into it 'cause politics is always a never-ending argument! You wanna know what I think of politics? It STINKS. FUCK BUSH. I love my country, but I don't like our president. He fuckin' SUCKS. Our governments fuck up relations day and night and there isn't much we can do. We need our youth to grow up and take over this shit. Hopefully these corrupt, corroded, money and power hungry families will die out sooner or later. I can go on and on about this, but I rather not. I'll save it for lyrics!

What is your reaction to Bush getting a second term?

He cheated again! It's just 4 more years... We can wait it out! Hope his fuckin' brother doesn't change his mind and decide to run for president... haha!

Does Hip Hop still have important messages, or an educational element? Is Hip Hop less political than it was?

Of course it does. You have dudes like myself, Shabazz, Brand Nubian, Talib Kweli, Dead Prez, Kanye West, etc..., who are doin' their best to spread important and educational messages. It's definitely a little less political now 'cause political shit doesn't sell, and to stay alive you have to sell something. 

If you could change something about society, what would it be and why?

Not sure... If you change one thing, it leads to another being fucked up. So it's hard to say. One thing I wouldn't mind starting with is the human mind. Get rid of all the negative shit in it. I think that would be a perfect place to start.

Are you at all concerned by the continuing issues between the US and Iraq? Or the Middle East? What is you perspective on this?

I'm concerned with the world. There's so much that goes on in other countries as well, and everyone's focused on what the states is doin'. What about Africa? Why isn't that a concern as much as Iraq? Why is Iraq covered on the news more than other things that are goin' on? Is it the most important? I can't wait til the Iraq thing blows over, and I hope they leave those people alone in peace SOON. 

Is there anything else you would like to mention?

Nope. I think this interview was pretty thorough. Thanks a lot! 

Fit all your shout outs and thanks here:

EVERYONE... Feel free to email me at [email protected], and hit my website at The album is called 'Etched In Stone' and it's in stores now and all over the internet. If you know of any way to help me out with this, or anyone that would like to book me for a show, by all means holla at me!

R.I.P. My cousin Tanisha, my aunt Tina, my grandmother, Rachel, Maria, Jose, ODB, and Yasser Arafat.

Thank you very much for your time.

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